Battle of Brothers: William and Harry – The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult by Robert Lacey

Why would I both reading a book on the royal family that’s six months old and obviously out-of-date following Meghan and Harry’s explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey? That’s precisely why I read it, that and it finally became available from the library. 🙂 Battle of Brothers (Amazon) is written by Robert Lacey, whose work I’ve read before; he’s a consulting historian on Netflix’s The Crown, too. So a noted historian’s book has to be worth something, doesn’t it?

From the publisher: “The world has watched Prince William and Prince Harry since they were born. Raised by Princess Diana to be the closest of brothers, how have the boy princes grown into very different, now distanced men? From royal insider, biographer and historian Robert Lacey, this book reveals the untold details of William and Harry’s closeness and estrangement, asking what happens when two sons are raised for vastly different futures – one burdened with the responsibility of one day becoming king, the other with the knowledge that he will always remain spare.”

Growing up, I was the perfect age to believe in the fairytale marriage, and as I grew up and learned all the tawdry details coming out, I couldn’t help but be interested. Charles and Diana’s wedding was the first one I ever saw, and while I wasn’t prone to dreaming of being a princess, the royal family had me, hook, line and sinker. I’ve been a follower ever since, even though their life is so different than my middle class upbringing in the American Midwest.

Battle of Brothers was finished five months after Prince Harry’s last official engagement for “the Firm”, but no doubt had been in the works since January 2020, when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they would be stepping down as senior royals in the family. That means eight months to write a book on events that were changing right up to publication date.

I do have to say that this book does seem like sort of a cash grab for Lacey. And considering the fact that he’s a well-known historian with a litany of books on the royal family to his name, Battle of Brothers is written with an edge and a bias not typically found in Lacey’s books. From the sounds of it, he’s not too keen on William or Harry at times, then seems to support Harry, then goes back to admonishing Harry’s decisions of the past year. In fact, he doesn’t seem to keen on any one of the major players except Queen Elizabeth. He has markedly negative things to say about all the rest of the royal family.

The rehash of the train wreck that was Charles and Diana’s marriage is gone over in detail, and despite the fact that I know the story inside and out at this point, it was the most interesting part of the book because Lacey took quotes from the brothers who have opened up on rare occasion about their upbringing and what the loss of their mother meant to them and weaved them into the story.

But on the whole, the rest of Battle of Brothers seems rather slap-dash in it’s execution. Since both brothers are tight-lipped about their private conversations with each other, there’s only a few times when their arguments are known and the details are revealed by “sources close to” William or Harry. And Lacey seems sympathetic to Meghan and mentions the terribly racist press coverage she received in Great Britain several times. But he also thinks that Harry and Meghan made misstep after misstep and didn’t treat “the Firm” very fairly with their decisions. Lacey references Finding Freedom several times (read my review here), the not authorized but clearly authorized book about Meghan and Harry’s exit from the royal family, which was released two months before this book.

This is the 7th library book I’ve read this year as part of my Library Love Reading Challenge.

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